Lynyrd Skynyrd: Rock 'n roll changed 40 years ago today

LYNYRD SKYNYRD:  Remembering October 20, 1977

On this day in 1977, October 20th, three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed when their plane crashed in Mississippi.

They were 28-year-old lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, 28-year-old guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, 29-year-old background vocalist Cassie Gaines. Also killed in the crash were assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrickand pilots Walter McCreary and William Gray.

The band were en route from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a show the next night when the chartered Convair CV-300 -- previously used by Aerosmith -- encountered a faulty engine. The pilots were diverted to the McComb-Pike County Airport, but ran out of fuel when they attempted an emergency landing before crashing in a heavily wooded area five miles northeast of Gillsburg, Mississippi.

The tour was in support of their fifth album, Street Survivors, which was released three days earlier. With the album cover showing the band engulfed in flames. MCA Records withdrew it and replaced it with the album's back photo, a similar image of the band against a black backdrop.

After the crash, the band split up before reuniting in 1987 with Ronnie's youngest brother, Johnny Van Zant, taking over on vocals. Guitarist Gary Rossington is the only founding member and survivor of the crash that is still in the band.

Drummer Artimus Pyle, who left in 1991, is the only other surviving member. Guitarist Allen Collins died in 1990, bassist Leon Wilkeson in 2001, and keyboardist Billy Powell in 2009. 

This past August, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Cleopatra Films, in conjunction with Pyle, were "prohibited from making its movie about the band when its partner substantively contributes to the project in a way that, in the past, he willingly bargained away the very right to do just that; in any other circumstance, Cleopatra would be as 'free as a bird' to make and distribute its work."

The judge was referring to an agreement that Pyle signed, which doesn't give him any rights to the name of the band or its likeness.

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